Saturday, December 19, 2015

A month of gifts, day 19: The Gift of Home

Last night we had the first snowfall of the season. Not much to speak of—only a couple of inches—but it never really feels like Christmas until there’s at least a dusting on the ground.

I never expected to feel at home in western New York. If anything, I always imagined going back to Maine at some point, but fate and a sucky economy have worked against that. Yet at some point when I wasn’t really thinking about it, Buffalo and its environs began to feel like the place I belong. 

Some of it is a matter of knowing people, both friends and nodding acquaintances. It’s the clerk at the post office remembering where I send packages, and the barista at the coffee shop knowing my favorite drink when I show up to hang out with a friend. It’s knowing their names and stories in turn.

Finding a home in Buffalo means cheering for sports teams that never quite seem to win in the crunch. It means Broadway shows at Shea’s, and taking all your friends and relatives to Niagara Falls at least once. It means learning to like beef on weck rolls with horseradish sauce. It means feeling passionate about 19th century architecture and taking pride in the history of the area. It’s sponge candy and fresh apple cider and picking your own berries on a hot summer’s day.

Home means the rhythm of the seasons and having a favorite spot to watch them change. It means having strong opinions about the new sign at the five and dime store (yes, we actually have one of those in my little town, and it’s terrific. The store, I mean. Though I like the fiberglass statue of Ed Vidler on the roof as well). 

It means checking the obituaries and the police blotter and the wedding announcements to look for any familiar names. It means knowing which neighbors don’t believe in the leash laws, and which ones want me to stop by and say hello when I’m out for a walk.

I don’t mean to give the impression that I live in some kind of bucolic time warp. There are thefts and drug problems, bitterness between neighbors, poverty, all the sorrows that accumulate when people live together. But all things considered, it’s a beautiful place full of people who are mostly a pretty decent bunch. In the stormy times, their best qualities shine through. Folks seem at their kindest when we’ve been buried under a few feet of snow.

(Not that I’m looking forward to the next round of lake effect madness. Well, okay, maybe a little. When the whole family is home safe, and we’ve gathered together to read or watch a movie, while the snow piles up between us and the rest of the world, and the kitchen smells like tomato soup, hot chocolate, and grilled cheese sandwiches . . . That’s home.)

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